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    August 5, 1897

    “How the Catholic Creed Was Made. The Warring of the Creeds” The Present Truth 13, 31, pp. 484-486.



    AS before remarked, those who against their will had subscribed to the creed of the Council of Nice, were determined to redeem themselves as soon as possible, and by whatever means it could be accomplished. And they did accomplish it. The story is curious, and the lessons which it teaches are valuable.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.1

    Shortly after the dismissal of the Council of Nice, Alexander died, and Athanasius succeeded to the episcopal seat of Alexandria. He, much more than Alexander, had been the life and soul of the controversy with Arius. And now when, at the age of thirty years, he became clothed with the power and the prerogatives of the archbishopric of Alexandria, the controversy received a new impulse from both sides. The Arians at once began to apply themselves diligently to win over Constantine to their side, or at least to turn him against Athanasius.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.2

    In A.D. 327 died Constantine’s sister, Constantia. She had held with the Arian party, having an Arian presbyter as her spiritual adviser. In response to her dying Constantine recalled Arius from banishment, and about the same time restored to favour the other two leading Arians, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Ptolemais, the two who had refused to sign the creed made at Nice. “They returned in triumph to their dioceses, and ejected the bishops who had been appointed to their place.” (Milman’s “History of Christianity.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.3

    In A.D. 328 Constantine made a journey to Jerusalem to dedicate the church that he had built there, and Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis both accompanied him. The Bishop of Antioch was a Catholic. In their journey, Eusebius and Theognis passed through Antioch, and set on foot a scheme to displace him; and when they returned, a council was hastily called, and upon charges of immorality and heresy,PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.4

    Eustathius was deposed, and banished by the imperial edict, to Thrace.... The city was divided into two fierce and hostile factions. They were on the verge of a civil war; and Antioch, where the Christians had first formed themselves into a Christian community, but for the vigorous interference of civil power and the timely appearance of an imperial commissioner, might have witnessed the first blood shed, at least in the East, in a Christian quarrel. (Milman.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.5

    Next the Arian prelates tried to induce Athanasius to admit Arius against to membership in the church, but he steadily refused. Then they secured from the emperor a command that Athanasius should receive Arius and all his friends who wished to be received, to the fellowship of the church of Alexandria, declaring that unless he did so, he should be deposed and exiled. Athanasius refused; and Constantine neither deposed him nor exiled him. Then the Arians invented against him many charges, even to the intent of murder, but he cleared himself, until at last, when he came to Constantinople and appealed to the Emperor for trial, all previous charges were abandoned, and he was accused of threatening to force Constantine to support him, by stopping the supplies of grain from the port of Alexandria. Whether Constantine really believed this charge or not, it accomplished its purpose. Athanasius was again condemned, and banished to Treves, in Gaul, February, A.D. 336.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.6

    The return of Arius to Alexandria was the cause of continued tumult, and he was called to Constantinople. At the request of the emperor, Arius presented a new confession of faith, which proved satisfactory, and Constantine commanded the bishop of Constantinople to receive Arius to the fellowship of the church on a day of public worship—“it happened to be a Sabbath (Saturday)—on which day, as well as Sunday, public worship was held at Constantinople.” (Neander.) The bishop absolutely refused to admit him. The Arians, under the authority of the emperor, threatened that the next day, Sunday, they would force their way into the church, and compel the admission of Arius to full membership in good and regular standing. Upon this the Athanasian party took refuge in “prayer;” the bishop prayed earnestly that, rather than the church should be so disgraced, Arius might die; and naturally enough, Arius died on the evening of the same day.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 484.7

    In Constantinople, where men were familiar with Asiatic crimes, there was more than a suspicion of poison. But when Alexander’s party proclaimed that his prayer had been answered, they forgot what then that prayer must have been, and that the difference is little between praying for the death of a man and compassing it. (Draper’s “Intellectual Development of Europe.”)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.1

    Petition after petition was presented to Constantine for the return of Athanasius to his place in Alexandria; but the emperor steadily denounced him as proud, turbulent, obstinate, and intractable, and refused all petitions. In 337, in the presence of death, Constantine was baptized by an Arian bishop; and thus closed the life of him upon whom a grateful church has bestowed the title of “the Great,” though, “tested by character, indeed, he stands among the lowest of all those to whom the epithet has in ancient or modern times been applied.” (“Encyclopedia Britannica.”)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.2


    CONSTANTINE was succeeded by his three sons, who apportioned the empire among themselves. Constantine II had Constantinople and some portions of the West, with pre-eminence of rank; Constantius obtained Thrace, Egypt, and all the East; and Constans held the greater part of the West. Constantius was a zealous Arian, Constantine and Constans were no less zealous Catholics. The religious parties now had another element added to their strifes—they could use the religious differences of the emperors in their own interests. Athanasius being an exile at Treves, was in the dominions of Constans, his “fiery defender;” while the place of his bishopric was in the dominions of Constantius, his fiery antagonist. The Athanasian party, through Constantine II, succeeded in persuading Constantius to allow the return of Athanasius and all the other bishops who had been banished.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.3

    The return of these bishops again set all the East ablaze. The leaders of the Arian party addressed letters to the emperors, denouncing Athanasius. They held another council at Tyre, A.D. 340, in which they brought against him new charges, and condemned him upon them all. Immediately afterward a rival council was held at Alexandria, which acquitted Athanasius of all things in which the other council had condemned him. In this same year Constantine II was killed in a war with his brother Constans. This left the empire and the religion to the two brothers—Constantius in Constantinople and the East, Constans in the West.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.4


    IN the dominions of Constans all Arians were heretics; in the dominions of Constantius all Catholics were heretics. The religious war continued, and increased in violence. In A.D. 341 another council, consisting of ninety bishops, was held at Antioch, in the presence of the emperor Constantius. Athanasius was condemned; and they appointed in his place a bishop of their own party, named Gregory.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.5

    With an escort of five thousand heavy-armed soldiers, Gregory proceeded to Alexandria to take possession of his bishopric. It was evening when he arrived at the church at which Athanasius officiated, and the people were engaged in the evening service. The troops were posted in order of battle about the church; but Athanasius slipped out, and escaped to Rome, and Gregory was duly and officially installed in his place. The Athanasians, enraged at such proceedings, set the church afire; “scenes of savage conflict ensued, the churches were taken, as it were, by storm,” and “every atrocity was perpetrated by unbridled multitudes, embittered by every shade of religious faction.” (Milman.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.6

    Similar scenes were soon after enacted in Constantinople, A.D. 342. In 338 occurred the death of Alexander, the bishop of Constantinople, who had prayed Arius to death. The Arians favoured Macedonius, the Athanasians favored Paul, for the vacant bishopric. Paul succeeded. This was while Constantius was absent from the city; and as soon as he returned, he removed Paul, and made Eusebius of Nicomedia Bishop of Constantinople. Eusebius died in 342. The candidacy of Paul and Macedonius was at once revived. “The dispute spread from the church into the streets, from the clergy to the populace; blood was shed; the whole city was in arms on one part or the other.” (Milman.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.7

    The Emperor ordered Hermogenes, commander of the cavalry, to go with his troops and expel Paul. In the attempt to do so, Hermogenes was met by such a desperate attack, that his soldiers were scattered, and he was forced to take refuge in a house. The house was immediately set on fire. Hermogenes was seized and dragged by the feet through the streets of the city till he was torn to pieces, and then his mangled body was cast into the sea. As soon as this news reached Constantius, he went to Constantinople and expelled Paul, without confirming the election of Macedonius, and returned to Antioch.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.8

    Paul went to Rome and the Bishop of Rome, glad of the opportunity to exert the authority thus recognised in him, declared Paul reinstated. Paul returned to Constantinople and resumed his place. As soon as Constantius learned of it, he commanded Philip, the praetorian prefect, to drive out Paul again, and establish Macedonius in his place. The prefect, bearing in mind the fate of Hermogenes, got Paul away by strategy, and then, surrounded by a strong body of guards with drawn swords, with Macedonius at his side in full pontifical dress, started from the palace to the church to perform the ceremony of consecration. By this time the rumour had spread throughout the city, and in a wild tumult both parties rushed to the church. “The soldiers were obliged to hew their way through the dense and resisting crowd to the altar,” and over the dead bodies of three thousand one hundred and fifty people, “Macedonius passed to the episcopal throne of Constantinople.” (Milman.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.9


    When Athanasius reached Rome, after having fled from Alexandria, the Bishop of Rome espoused his cause, and two councils were held in his favour. Then a general council was called to meet at Sardica, but there was a split before it was opened, and the bishops of the West, favouring Athanasius and the Creed of Nice met at Sardica, while the bishops of the East, favouring Arianism, met at Philippopolis, and, as Dean Milman says,PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.10

    In these two cities sat the rival councils, each asserting itself the genuine representative of Christendom, issuing decrees, and anathematising their adversaries. (Milman.)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.11

    The council in the West, at Sardica, having it all their own way, enacted canons bestowing special dignity upon the Bishop of Rome, giving him power to judge in episcopal causes. The effect of this was only to multiply and intensify differences and disputes among bishops, and infinitely to magnify the power of the bishop of Rome.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 485.12

    Athanasius, though fully supported by the council, preferred to remain under the protection of Constans, rather than risk the displeasure of Constantius by returning to Alexandria. He remained two years in the West, during which time he was often the guest of the emperor Constans, and made such use of these opportunities that in A.D. 349 Constans “signified, by a concise and peremptory epistle to his brother Constantius, that unless he consented to the immediate restoration of Athanasius, he himself, with a fleet and army, would seat the archbishop on the throne of Alexandria.” (Gibbon.) Constantius was just at this time threatened with war with Persia, and fearing the result if war should be made upon him at the same time by his brother, and Athanasius returned in triumph.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.1


    In February, A.D. 350, Constans was murdered by the usurper Magnentius; and in 353 Constantius became sole emperor by the final defeat and death of the usurper. Constantius no sooner felt himself assured of the sole imperial authority, than he determined to execute vengeance upon Athanasius, and make the Arian doctrine the religion of the whole empire. Yet he proposed to accomplish this only in orthodox fashion, through a general council. As it was thus that his father had established the Athanasian doctrine, which was held by all the Catholics to be strictly orthodox, to establish the Arian doctrine by a like process, assuredly could be no less orthodox.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.2

    Liberius, who became bishop of Rome May 22, A.D. 352, had already petitioned Constantius for a general council. Constantius summoned the council to meet at Arles, A.D. 353. Liberius was not present in person, but he sent as his representatives. It was found that the Arian bishops were in the majority; and they insisted first of all upon the condemnation of Athanasius. The Catholic bishops argued the question of the faith ought to be discussed before they should be required to condemn him; but the Arians insisted upon their point.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.3

    Constantius came to the support of the Arians with an edict sentencing to banishment all who would not sign the condemnation of Athanasius. Finding that there was no escape, the representatives of Liberius, and all the other Athanasian bishops but one, signed the document. Liberius refused to confirm the action of his representatives, and utterly rejected the action of the council, and called for another. Constantius granted his request, and appointed a council to meet at Milan, in the beginning of the year 355. This council was but a repetition on a larger scale, of that at Arles. Constantius insisted, without any qualification, that the bishops should sign the condemnation of Athanasius. He took a personal interest in all the proceedings. Like his father at the Council of Nice, he had the meetings of the council held in the imperial palace, and presided over them himself.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.4

    Constantius not only demanded that the Catholic bishops should sign the condemnation of Athanasius, but that they should also sign an Arian formula of faith. They pleaded that the accusers of Athanasius were unreliable. Constantius replied, “I myself am now the accuser of Athanasius, and on my word, Valens and the others [the accusers] must be believed.” They argued that this was against the canon of the church. Constantius replied, “My will is the canon,” and appealed to the Eastern bishops, who all assented that this was correct. He then declared that whoever did not sign might expect banishment. At this the orthodox bishops lifted up their hands beseechingly toward heaven, and prayed the emperorPTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.5

    to fear God, who had given him the dominion, that it might not be taken from him; also to fear the day of judgment, and not to confound the secular power with the law of the church, nor to introduce into the church the Arian heresy. (Hefele’s “History of the Councils.”)PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.6

    They forgot that they themselves, many of them at least, had approved in Constantine at the Council of Nice the identical course which now they condemned in Constantius at the Council of Milan. In their approval of the action of Constantine in forcing upon others what they themselves believed, they robbed themselves of the right to protest when Constantius or anybody else should choose to force upon them what somebody else believed. They ought not to have thought it strange that they should reap what they had sown.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.7

    Constantius, yet further to imitate his father, claimed to have had a vision, and that thus by direct inspiration from heaven, he was commissioned “to restore peace to the afflicted church.” At last, by the “inspiration” of “flatteries, persuasions, bribes, menaces, penalties, exiles” (Milman), the Council of Milan was brought to a greater unanimity of faith than even the Council of Nice had been. For there, out of the three hundred and eighteen bishops, five were banished; while here, out of a greater number, only five were banished. Surely if a general council is of any authority, the Council of Milan must take precedence of the Council of Nice, and Arianism be more orthodox than Athanasianism.PTUK August 5, 1897, page 486.8

    A. T. JONES.

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